Thirty great ideas you don`t want to miss


Thirty great ideas you don`t want to miss
Thirty great ideas
you don’t want to miss
By Abbie Westra
arge or small, an “a-ha” moment can
change your business, your momentum
and your morale. Inspired by the ideation stage of the innovation process,
Fare has pulled together a list of great ideas from all
corners of the foodservice and retail industries.
This collection is meant to inspire action for
your next great idea. QR codes for food traceability,
high-speed ovens at hotel check-ins, and a 75-bottle
hot-sauce Wall of Flame are just a few examples we’ve
unearthed to help get the juices flowing. Whenever
you’re feeling creatively stumped, just pull this issue
off the shelf and start ideating.
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Interestingly, many of the ideas have overlapping
elements. We’ve indicated the crossovers, and challenge you to find the common themes throughout.
A special thanks goes to our team of innovators
who helped us create this list: Joseph Bona of
CBX in New York; Melissa Abbott and her fellow
consumer-trends gurus at The Hartman Group in
Bellevue, Wash.; Ken Toong of the University of
Massachusetts-Amherst; Chris Koetke at Kendall
College in Chicago; Dan Chiado and the rest of
the team at Olson Communications in Chicago; and
Aaron Noveshen and Judy Hsu at The Culinary
Edge, San Francisco.
No. 7 Restaurant and The National Peanut Board
Menu Monitors
Research consultancies are constantly monitoring instances of
ingredients on menus—and so should
you. Among some top menu buzzwords:
The appearance of peanuts on menus
more than doubled (101.5%) from 2006
to 2011, according to Technomic (pictured above, a peanut, apple and Brussels
sprouts sub from No. 7 Restaurant, New
York). In the pizza segment, the firm
finds growing instances of sweet, hot,
smoky, spicy and even fruity flavors topping pies.
Fellow Chicago firm Datassential
found in its MenuTrends 2012 report that
the increasingly popular Thai condiment
sriracha is found 40 times more often at
food trucks than at QSRs (see No. 15).
The top-growing sandwich protein at
QSRs? Egg whites, followed by pulled and
shredded pork (slow-and-low is in vogue).
Forget the usual candy bar and
soda. A crop of new ideas is
stocking vending machines with very
different products. In Brooklyn, the
Swap-O-Matic consists of items donated
by customers. When you donate, you
receive credits that can be used toward
“purchasing” other items in the machine.
At Lil Mart in Odenville, Ala., the Smart
Butcher meat vending machine sells a wide
variety of meat (New York strip, rib-eye,
sausages) for $6 or less per piece. Kroger
recently opened a 10-by-13-foot robotic
c-store at Ohio Northern University in
Ada that dispenses as many as 200 items,
including refrigerated foods. Meanwhile,
in Europe, automats such as Febo are quite
popular, particularly among youth. There
have even been rumors of this format
showing up stateside.
Brown-Bagging It
How do you encourage customers to purchase a combo meal? Bag
it up for them. C-store chain Thorntons,
Louisville, Ky., displays a 44-ounce fountain
drink cup and a bag of chips packaged in a
Thorntons Quick Café-branded bag. The
guest need only grab the bag, pick a sandwich and fill the cup, and they’re on their
way with a $5 combo.
A Room Key
and aToastie
It’s happened to us all: Checking
into a hotel late—and starving. A couple
of Hyatt Place hotels in the Chicago area
have installed high-speed Merrychef ovens
and, upon check-in, front-desk associates
ask guests if they’d like a freshly toasted
sandwich to take to their room. The perk
accommodates busy and late-night travelers and keeps their money in the hotel.
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Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board
The New Cupcake
Here we have a curious collision
of trends: the ongoing cupcake
craze paired with a desire for creature
comforts. Put them together, and you’ve
got meatloaf cupcakes. Luckily the two
have little in common beyond presentation, which is also quite portable. Cook
meatloaf in lined muffin trays, or cut to
fit after cooking. Place in a fresh liner,
top with piped mashed potatoes and any
additional garnishes.
Supermarkets are using them to draw
attention to the deli (pictured above, a
display at the International Dairy-DeliBakery Association’s annual show), and
Chicago food truck/restaurant The Meatloaf Bakery peddles options such as El
Loafo Del Fuego: ground pork, chorizo,
green olives, hot peppers and almonds,
baked and topped with garlic potatoes.
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Grilled Cheese Gourmet
From upstate New York c-store
chain Nice N Easy to No. 2 coffee
chain Caribou, grilled cheese is popping
up on menus across the spectrum as a
canvas for countless flavor combinations
(No. 27).
But these aren’t the sandwiches of
your youth. Operators are filling them
with every ingredient imaginable, from a
grilled-cheese Reuben at Nice N Easy to
The Brasserie at Milwaukee’s Melthouse
Bistro (pictured above): Brie, braised
short ribs and pickled red onions on
country French bread.
To jump on the grilled-cheese train,
follow these tips from the Wisconsin Milk
Marketing Board: Grated or shredded
cheese melts better than slices, and cheese
is best grated when cold and melted at
room temperature.
More Cluck
forYour Buck
Kettle Cuisine tipped us off to a
clever use for leftover rotisserie chickens.
The company noticed supermarket clients
shredding the meat and adding it to their
hot-soup offerings. Other retailers shred
the meat and sell it in the cold case as a convenient component for a weeknight recipe.
What’sYour McRib?
The Hartman Group finds that
consumers are increasingly prizing scarcity over ubiquity, novelty over
sameness. Just look at the buzz generated
over McDonald’s McRib, or the cult-like
Twitter hunt for food trucks. Social media
is perfect for exclusivity buzz. Heinz made
its limited-edition balsamic ketchup available only on Facebook for the first month.
The promo brought tens of thousands of
new “Likes” to its page.
Veggie Might
A number of trends are meeting at
the intersection of produce ubiquity. C-stores are growing sales of fresh-cut
fruit cups, and many schools (including
Baltimore Public Schools) have adopted
meat-free Mondays. Walgreens is fighting
food deserts by bringing fresh produce
into 1,000 stores in the next five years.
On the high-end side, gourmet food
hall Eataly in New York has a full-time
“vegetable butcher” who will wash and cut
your produce and offer cooking tips. Spice
company McCormick & Co. included
“veggies in vogue” among its six flavor
trends for 2012, pointing to fresh, seasonal
vegetables paired with inventive flavors
such as eggplant with honey and harissa, a
spicy North African chili sauce (No. 15).
More Maple
Maple is one of those great
flavors that’s right under
our noses, making it novel yet familiar.
It was the 2008 SIAL Show in Montreal
where we first noticed maple as a trend,
appearing on the show floor as a sweet/
savory sauce, butter, jelly and even maple
flakes for topping beverages and sweets.
Four years later, it’s hit everyday food
occasions while still maintaining popularity in high-end restaurants and gourmet shops. In December, 7-Eleven rolled
out a maple pancake sausage item for the
roller grill, McDonald’s puts the flavor
front and center in its oatmeal offering,
and coffee company Boyd paired it with
a smoky element in its seasonal maple
bacon cappuccino flavor.
Pickled Punch
Food trucks and “fine casual”
restaurants have helped bring
the spicy, pungent Korean condiment kimchee into the American food lexicon. There
are hundreds of varieties of kimchee, but
most consist of fermented napa cabbage,
radish or cucumber. Shops slinging sandwiches and tacos are using kimchee to add
a punch to more traditional offerings.
If kimchee is too far out of your customers’ wheelhouse, experiment with the
more familiar giardiniera. In the Midwest,
the pickled vegetable mixture (typically
peppers, carrots and celery) is used copiously on the Chicago-style Italian beef
sandwich. Burger joint Kuma’s Corner in
Chicago even mixes diced giardiniera into
its ketchup for a spicy, acidic twist.
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Selling Wellness
Drug chain Walgreens
and its sister brand Duane
Reade in New York have found a way to
make healthy aspirational. Newly opened
flagship stores in Chicago (pictured
above) and New York feature what the
company calls the “Well Experience” with
airport-type kiosks for prescription refills,
on-hand beauty assistants for advice and
manicures, and pharmacists who are
encouraged to mill around and interact
with guests.
On the food side is a wide range of
better-for-you products with more social
cachet than health food of fads past. Sushi
made on site, salads, Greek yogurt, bottled
smoothies, alternative chips such as Popchips and sea-salt-seasoned everything
make being healthy a pleasurable lifestyle.
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Burning Wall of Fire
What’s your signature? California Tortilla, a 35-store
fast-casual burrito chain (in airports
under the Burrito Elito banner), placed
its signature on the wall—the “Wall of
Flame,” with nearly 75 hot sauces. Sauces
are complimentary for in-store use, and
bottles of each are available for purchase.
Let It Flash
With competition in mind,
many op er ators don’t
allow photography in their stores. But
the tools today’s shoppers have at their
disposal—Twitter, Facebook, Instagram,
Foodspotting—can actually generate
positive attention. Remember, customers
love buzz (No. 8). By letting them snap
pics, you’re bringing buzz in the most
valuable way: peer-to-peer.
Condiment Craze
Condiments are the ultimate
low-risk risk. They allow
operators and consumers to experiment
with menu ideas without completely leaving their comfort zone. It’s also an easy way
to allow for customization—a major desire
of millennials.
Manufacturers are enabling the condiment craze with unique spins on familiar
flavors, such as Heinz’s ketchup made with
balsamic instead of the usual white vinegar
(No. 8). Frank’s RedHot has expanded
beyond its Buffalo-wing staple with barbecue, chile-lime and sweet chili varieties.
Meanwhile, unique gourmet varieties (such
as Skillet Bacon Jam, pictured above) and
lesser-known ethnic condiments are hitting
the mainstream, including sriracha, hoisin,
harissa and Korean chili paste gochujuag
(Nos. 1, 9, 11).
Soup Chill
Are you not selling refrigerated soups? Not yet. Panera
recently introduced refrigerated soups in
Target stores with grocery sections, while
Whole Foods, Safeway and others are
offering high-quality store brands.
For the consumer, it’s a fresh alternative
for a wholesome heat-and-eat meal. For
retailers, it’s an easy item in the open-air
cooler for customers to take back to their
home, office or dorm.
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Format as Cuisine
Chipotle’s success can in part
be attributed to its sourcing of quality ingredients. It can also be
attributed to the format: a handful of
components, ready to be built to order,
in countless combinations. The company realized the format isn’t exclusive
to Mexican cuisine and has translated it
to Southeast Asian food at ShopHouse,
Washington, D.C.
Customers choose between a sandwich
or rice bowl, and then pick a protein, vegetable, sauce and garnish from options
such as pork and chicken meatballs, wokfried Chinese broccoli, red curry and green
papaya slaw. And the concept is ready for
scale: All sauces and marinades already
come from a commissary in Chipotle’s
home state of Colorado.
Safe, Streamlined
Since 2009, the Foodservice GS1 US Standards Initiative has
been working to drive the adoption of
GS1 Standards for bar codes within the
foodservice supply chain. The idea is for
everyone to have the same data-sharing
platform and pull the same, standardized
information about products.
Why the big deal? It would streamline
ordering and enable traceability in the
event of recalls or food-safety issues. If an
operator is trying to plan more healthful
or allergen-free menus, they’ll be able to
research information all in one place. GS1
hopes to get 75% of manufacturers, distributors and operators using the system
by 2015. Recent members include Aramark, Brinker and Dr Pepper Snapple.
Onions Worth
Crying Over
Caramelized onions are an easy way to
add a surge of sweet and savory to a menu
item. What’s more, a recent study found
that caramelized onions can actually add
value to a menu item. In the survey, conducted by Datassential, items that included
caramelized onions averaged $1.80 more
per item than onions menued without a
noted preparation method. For operations
with limited prep, processed caramelized
onions are available flash-frozen and ready
to use. Even the term “caramelized” alone
is growing in instances on menus. Penetration of the term on fast-casual menus is
23%, while 9% of QSRs use the term on
their menus (No. 28).
for Lisa Aitken, director of
marketing, came from the
company’s many college
locations: Students often
don’t have extra cash, but
they are eager to donate
time and raise awareness.
Both organizations are
brainstorming ways to
better engage that group.
At Chuck & Augie’s at the University of
Connecticut in Storrs, chefs make mozzarella daily. Not only does it yield a higher
price tag, but the cheesemaking itself also
draws attention. Imagine someone in
chef whites, pulling cheese in your store
during a busy day-part. You could sell the
mozzarella by the pound, and feature it in
panini, salads or a portable Caprese cup.
Support a Cause,
Sell Food
What better way to show you’re in the
foodservice game than by aligning with
a food-related cause? Nonprofits such as
Share Our Strength offer turnkey participation programs for campaigns such as
Dine Out for No Kid Hungry. The 180store chain Pita Pit launched a monthlong promo last September, donating
50 cents for every salad sold. Customers
could also donate $1 or more directly to
Share Our Strength and receive a coupon
for $1 off their next pita. Sixty-two locations brought in $20,000. One takeaway
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Breakfast Border Run
The Taco Bell brand may be well
known for many things, but breakfast is
not one of them. So when developing its
First Meal breakfast menu, the company
wisely partnered with brands that are
synonymous with the morning day-part.
Johnsonville, Cinnabon, Tropicana and
Seattle’s Best Coffee are all marquee
names on the new menu, launched in 750
stores in January. Johnsonville helped create the signature item, a sausage and egg
tortilla wrap with melted cheese. Another
good idea: It started the breakfast rollout
out West, where people are accustomed to
starting the day with a breakfast burrito.
QR Codes for Quality
QR codes have largely been used
as a way for brands to market to consumers, but they’re also implemented to help
traceability from field to store. In Idaho,
onions farmers are placing QR codes on
bags of onions and including crucial information such as the field where and day and
time when the onions were harvested.
Cheesecake as Canvas
Simplicity Sells
Cheesecake is a perennial favorite, and even c-stores and truckstops,
including TravelCenters of America, are
seeing increased sales of prepackaged
slices placed in open-air coolers. It’s also
an ideal canvas for unique flavor combinations and customizations (No. 15).
Offer a toppings bar for customers
to top their own slices, or follow these
suggestions from The Cheesecake Factory
Bakery: diced strawberries and mangos,
mint leaves, sugar and fresh-ground pepper; light brown sugar, cinnamon and
candied almonds; blueberries, lemon
juice and sugar, topped with fresh basil;
chocolate toffee chunks, raspberries
and fresh mint; apple-pecan bourbon
sauce with candied apples and pecans;
or chocolate, cayenne and an anise and
cinnamon cream.
We talk a lot about the veto
vote: How do you please every person in
the family or group of friends to ensure
they choose your establishment over
another? There’s certainly logic behind
a broad menu, but are you creating a
destination? That’s what some brands
are doing by focusing on a singular
food and doing it really, really well. The
granddaddy of simple concepts may
be In-N-Out Burger, where the menu
is five items long and the cult following
immeasurable (though the “Secret Menu”
adds extra exclusivity; No. 8). Five Guys
is following suit, as are many local, chefdriven concepts. If you can do one thing
exceptionally well, then the veto vote is
staying home.
Grilled Cheese Fix
Considering it’s on the cover of
the magazine and all, we thought it appropriate to have two grilled-cheese entries
(No. 6). This time, the idea combines the
universal love of grilled cheese with the
desire to customize. At Melted at Northern Michigan ßUniversity, students can
build their own grilled cheese from nine
types of cheese, five types of bread and
toppings from ham, bacon and mustard
to sauerkraut and giardiniera (No. 11).
Grilled Cheese 100 gets you a basic cheeseand-bread sandwich; Grilled Cheese 200
allows one topping; 300 gets you two, and
the 400 level are “graduate creations” such
as The Flying Dutchman with smoked
Gouda, ham and roasted apples.
Adventures in Eating
Smart Produce
Gas-flushed, breathable packaging has
been used in the supermarket industry
for years as a way to optimize ripeness
and shelf life. It’s finally come to the foodservice/convenience side with Chiquita’s
To Go bananas. The packaging allows for
up to seven extra days of shelf life compared with unpackaged bananas. It offers
retail and restaurants the opportunity
to build sales on whole produce and get
in the better-for-you game without as
much food waste. And when you think
about the potential for this product in
the country’s underserved food deserts—
where opportunities certainly exist, but
demand is still small—the technology is
even more compelling (No. 9).
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Want to experiment with ethnic twists on classic foods? Your best bet,
according to Olson Communications,
is a Nuevo Latino Burger: char-grilled,
coarse-ground skirt steak with caramelized onions ( No. 19 ), pineapple and
roasted red pepper mojo (No. 9) served
on a cornmeal-sourdough bun. The riff
was the most popular burger in a survey
of 200 consumers who tested and judged
15 menu concepts that used Asian, Latin
and Mediterranean inspiration. The topranked salad had a Mediterranean theme
with romaine, cucumber, mint and green
onion tossed with faro, feta and a cumin
and lemon yogurt dressing. Interestingly,
participants favored ice-cream concepts
with Asian and Latin flavors more than
their favorite American flavors.
As channel lines blur, a new segment of
restaurant-retail hybrids is making shopping and eating more convenient—even
fun. Grocers such as Whole Foods and
Byerly’s have created food halls in their
stores with counter-service concepts
based on ethnic foods and menu themes.
The Whole Foods flagship in Chicago has
a bar within the seafood department for
a quick chowder and Chardonnay. Highend Eataly New York is an Italian-food
emporium with 50,000 square feet of
restaurants interspersed among the groceries. And many cities are creating destinations out of their markets, including
Milwaukee’s Public Market; Columbus,
Ohio’s North Market; and the Midtown
Global Market in Minneapolis.
Stealth Health
Health-related laws and mandates aren’t slowing, and it may be in
your best interest to get out in front of
nutrition trends. During a survey at the
University of Massachusetts-Amherst,
more than 73% of students said they
want more healthy choices. The school
is already making its food more healthful
behind the scenes—less sodium, more
produce and whole grains—without
being promoted as such.
“Our student customers are demanding healthy food now, and they will
become the customers of the restaurants
tomorrow,” says Ken Toong, executive
director of auxiliary enterprises. “What
are we as operators waiting for?”